ASRock M8 Mini-ITX Barebones Gaming PC Review

ASRock's M8: Build Your Own Compact Gaming Box

A number of Tom's Hardware editors are excited about the trend towards smaller, faster PCs after witnessing Chris Angelini’s love affair with Falcon Northwest's Tiki. At the same time, we still remember that expensive pre-built systems were outside of our budgets back when we actually had to pay for the latest hardware (Ed.: Hey, I paid for the Tiki with my own money). Sharp memories like those help us keep a proper perspective on the reasons enthusiasts like to build their own boxes.

ASRock thinks it has the perfect do-it-yourself solution in the M8 PC. But is this system really all that special? Isn’t it just another fancy case with conventional, standardized parts inside? Couldn’t we just buy a mini-ITX motherboard, an SFX power supply, and a  slim gaming case of our choosing?

Designed with a riser to accommodate extra-large graphics cards, enclosures that leveraged this concept aren't very common any more. Maybe they were ahead of their time, or perhaps enthusiasts simply didn't "get it". But with compact towers introducing us to flagship-class hardware in ever-small spaces, ASRock sees this as the perfect time to re-introduce the concept to our do-it-yourself community.

Rather than forcing builders to figure out on their own (the hard way) that they need special cables to connect a standard board to a slim optical drive, the company even goes so far as to include the drive itself. And rather than watch us all argue over the various power supply form factors that erroneously get labeled microATX, ASRock installs a 450 W SFX unit at its own factory. And since ASRock just so happens to be a motherboard manufacturer, it ties everything together using an upgraded version of its Z87-ITX.

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ASRock M8 Barebones PC Configuration
Chassis
ModelASRock M8 miniITX Slim Tower
Expansion Slots2 x full-height on riser card
Internal Bays5 x 2.5", or 1 x 2.5" + 1 x 3.5"
Power BaySFX, front-mounted, internal extension cable
Optical Bay5.25" slim, front-loading-only
Front Panel I/O4 x USB 3.0, headset, flash media interface (SD/MMC/MS PRO)
Fans2 x 70 mm bottom, 2 x 70 mm top
Dimensions15.8" (H), 4.9" (W), 14.7" (D), 16.25 Pounds
Motherboard
ModelASRock Z87-M8: LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express
External Data4 x USB 2.0, 4 x USB 3.0, eSATA, 1x gigabit Ethernet
External Audio5 x Analog, 1 x S/PDIF
External Video1 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI
Internal Ports6 x SATA 6Gb/s (shared w/eSATA), 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0
Internal Slots1 x PCIe x16, 1 x mini-PCIe (filled w/Wi-Fi), 2 x SO-DIMM
Maximum Memory2 x DDR3 SO-DIMM (all standard speeds and capacities)
Gigabit EthernetIntel WGI217V PHY
Wireless NetworkBroadcom BCM4352 802.11ac dual-band, 867 Mb/s
Audio ControllerCreative Sound Blaster Core3D
Other Features
Optical DriveLite-On DC-8A2SH 8x DVD-RW (slot-loading)
Power SupplyFSP450-60GHS(85)-R: 450 W, dual eight-Pin PCIe, 80 PLUS Bronze
Cooling4 x 70 mm 4000 RPM Fans
WarrantyOne Year
Price$550
CPU, CPU Cooler, Hard Drives, RAM, Operating System And Peripherals Not Included

If we subtract the cost of its expensive slot-loading optical drive and power supply, we end up paying $400 for a very nice compact motherboard and BMW-designed feature-packed case. Two hundred dollars each for a motherboard and case isn’t cheap, but it still pushes us towards a far less expensive build compared to the pre-configured systems we’ve recently tested. We'reready for a closer look!

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.